Villamaria Symposium seeks to strengthen ties with Latino community

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. The Villamaría Symposium will be held on Sat., April 26 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

Inaugurated this academic year, Villamaría is a Maryville College initiative focusing on building and strengthening the College’s relationships with the Latino community.

Speakers for the Villamaría Symposium include Loida C. Valázquez, an active member within the Latino and mainstream communities. Velázquez is retired from the University of Tennessee, where she served as an adjunct professor, principal investigator and project director for a federally funded program serving migrant and seasonal farm workers. She founded Hispanics in Education and Training, a staff development and consulting service for organizations that want to reach the Latino community. She will present “Who is Latino? Identity and Culture.”

Daniel Gomez, a 2010 graduate of Maryville College, and his father, Francisco Gomez, who owns Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant in Maryville, will also be speaking. The two will share their perspectives on the changing face of Latin American cuisine in East Tennessee with their presentation entitled, “25 Years of Mexican Food in Maryville.”

Other presentations include “Hispanic Oral Histories of East Tennessee,” presented by Dr. Geoff Mitchell and Cosset Avalos of MC’s Division of Languages & Literature; “The Hispanic Community Today: Challenges and Opportunities” by Nijole Vileikis of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee; and “Mexican Migration and U.S. Migration Policies: Acknowledging the Past to Understand the Present” by Dr. De Ann Pendry of University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology.

“Villamaría at Maryville College is an initiative that continues the College’s long history of affirming the critical value of diversity in higher education,” said Dr. Crystal Colter, associate professor of psychology and a member of the Villamaría team. “This symposium will be an opportunity to highlight the vibrant Latino communities in our region and engage in a conversation about the valuable contributions and ongoing work of Latino individuals and organizations in areas such as education, business, faith and culture.”
The fee to attend the conference is $10 and includes lunch.

Registration is required by April 19 and may be completed at or by emailing name, postal address and phone number to For more information, visit or contact Crystal Colter at 865.981.8269 or

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester was 1,168.

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